Within the workplace, there are many people from diverse backgrounds working alongside one another each and every day. Without a basic understanding of a person’s background or culture, it can be easy to misinterpret or miscommunicate people’s actions or intentions. Being aware of workplace cultural diversity is vital, it’s also essential to realise that each person is unique. Here we outline some basic principles of indigenous culture that could be relevant to your workplace. It may give you a better understanding of the background of your indigenous co-workers and increase your awareness. However, these are only generalisations and it’s always best to check with each person before making any judgements or assumptions!
Communication: Non-Indigenous Australians and Indigenous Australians may communicate in different ways. It’s critical to be aware of this to create mutual respect and understanding and a good and supportive workplace. When communicating in the workplace, attending meetings, or interviewing Indigenous Australians, keep the following considerations in mind. When engaging with Indigenous Australians, nonverbal communication such as silence or eye contact may require a distinct understanding.
Agreement and Positive Responses: When posed questions or presented with challenges, Indigenous Australians frequently concur or react with “yes.” This is the result of many years of being reared in a government system that was hostile to Aboriginal Communities in Australia and taught them to accept what was being done regardless of their beliefs. Indigenous Australians were frequently kept out of trouble because of agreements. The effects of such training have been passed down the generations, a phenomenon is known as trans-generational or inter-generational trauma. Be mindful of this and give Indigenous employees time to build trust and comfort, avoiding putting them in difficult or confronting circumstances that will result in a usual “yes” reaction.
Family Relationships: Traditional Indigenous familial ties are complex and unique from non-Indigenous associations. Indigenous Australians have extended families that can go beyond blood and marriage – a kinship system that determines where people belong in society and what rights and responsibilities they have. (Kinship systems vary among indigenous peoples.) Even though they are not biologically related, Indigenous Australians commonly refer to Elders or community leaders as Aunt or Uncle as a sign of respect. Indigenous Australians may refer to one another as brother or sister even if they are not blood kin.
Aboriginal Communities in Australia place a high value on family responsibility, and the consequences of this may have an influence on the workplace. An Indigenous Australian’s first focus is generally his or her family. Be aware that financial, health and general care for youngsters and elderly family members are frequently shared among extended family and the community. This means that your employee will be given greater responsibilities outside of their nuclear family.
Due to the breadth and depth of obligation to family in Indigenous culture, there is the chance of frequent or inexplicable absences from work, or someone may consistently arrive late to work without explanation. Supporting or caring for family members may take precedence over going to work. When this occurs, it is critical to address the problem as soon as possible to avoid any possibility of deterioration in working relationships. Talk to the employee in a confidential and comfortable setting to uncover the concerns and establish how they might be assisted while fulfilling the workplace’s expectations and demands.
When referring to the presence or behaviour of a person, be appreciative of their dedication to their family and avoid using judgmental terminology such as the phrase “walkabout.” Ascertain that the employee is aware of both the available resources and the workplace expectations regarding absence notice and leave alternatives. Alternative leave choices, such as unpaid or bought leave, should be discussed with the employee. Contact the Indigenous Employment Coordinator or other relevant personnel in the Division of Human Resources to manage workplace absence.
Men’s and Women’s Business: Certain rituals and behaviours are carried out independently by men and women in Indigenous culture. Men’s and Women’s Business are terms used to describe these two types of businesses. These expected behaviours are subject to very rigorous controls and penalties under Aboriginal Law if the laws are breached. In specific communities, some of these rituals may still be practised. Keep in mind that there may be concerns in the workplace that Indigenous employees may prefer to discuss with someone of the same gender if they want to do so. This is not meant to be personal or disrespectful, but rather to show respect for a culture that has been passed down through the years.
Shame: Indigenous Communities in Australia frequently allude to an occurrence that has ‘shamed’ them or to the fact that they are too ‘shame’ to say or do something. This indicates that they were humiliated. Indigenous Australians are frequently timid, and if they are singled out or laughed at, they may feel offended. Even when they are singled out for positive reasons, they may feel ashamed since they do not want to look superior to others, particularly Indigenous people. It may be a good idea to pick out an Indigenous Australian employee in the workplace to congratulate them for their actions or get them to talk to other employees in a more official environment. Allow the individual to express their preferences on how this should be accomplished. Encourage them to allow it if they are too ashamed to be complimented, but ultimately respect their wishes.
An Indigenous Employment Plan may help your company stand out from the crowd and provide you with an advantage when it comes to attracting talent. Companies that include corporate social responsibility in their business models are connected with contemporary, forward-thinking principles. Many employees find a culturally inclusive workplace appealing, which improves retention rates and reduces recruiting expenses. Community Involvement Solution Australia works with your organisation to design, develop, and implement an IES that is based on critical facts and an understanding of the needs of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander employees.